By John Turney
Do enjoy, and correct us if you think we missed someone...we likely have.
|Credit: LA Times|
There may be a holder or two with slightly better hands but no one had his legs and impact on a game. Cromwell was a true weapon.
It should also be noted he was a good special team player on the punt block team (six career blocks) as well. And was often the safety on the kick coverage teams because he was a good tackler and had excellent speed so using him as the last line of defense was a good idea.
David Humm—Said by Bob Chandler to have the best hands ever.
Brad Maynard—Ranked second by Gosselin, we will go with that.
Paul Krause—Ranked third by Gosselin. Note that Krause is old school in that he has his front leg forward. You don't see that anymore but it used to be the norm.
Now players are coached not to do that is because it's dangerous for the holder to have his front leg sticking out because somebody could land on it. Although Krause does have it tucked as opposed to Whitsell (below) so the leg is not as vulnerable.
Also, when a holder kneels on his front knee he can use the back leg as a backstop since that where where he's catching the ball and placing it so the spot and setting the ball down becomes much more consistent and less prone to error.
6. Sam Koch—These days the snappers and holders are so good that it's hard to critique them. Koch represents the near perfection of today's holders, almost all of who are punters. What we know is on his watch the kickers have been great.
7. Bill Troup—Always ranked high by pro scouting firm in the 1970s.
8. Bob Chandler—Held for the Bills and then the Raiders. Was actually traded for David Humm in 1980.
9. Hunter Smith—Called by one of his special teams coaches, "The best ever".
10. Eddie Meador—Like Cromwell, also a Ram and also wore #21, he could execute a fake as well as anyone outside of Cromwell. He rushed for 59 yards on six fakes and one touchdown and also threw a touchdown on a fake.
11. Joe Theismann—Quick out of his 'holder kneel' could roll and throw. We do know he wasn't loved by Deacon Jones. In 1974, in the final game of the season, the Redskins were blowing out the Chicago Bears. Jones talked George Allen into letting him kick an extra point if the Redskins scored a touchdown, which they did. However, Theismann refused to hold for Jones until the Deacon had a word with him, "I had the threaten the little prick to get him to hold for me".
Also not Theismann is kneeling on his back knee, perhaps one of the last to do it that way. But as we know, Theismann's leg was not injured when he was holding for a kick.
12. Jeff Feagles—Like Maynard held hell for a long time.
13. John Hadl—Held when he was with the Chargers then with the Oilers but not for the Rams in 1973-74.
14. Steve Dils—Like Humm, great hands.
15. Koy Detmer—Stayed in the league largely because he could hold. One of the last of the quarterback-as-holder era.
16. Brian Baschnagel—Another high ranker in the eyes of one pro scouting firm.
17. Roger Wehrli—Scored a touchdown on a fake in his first and last NFL season.
18. Larry Wilson
19. John Sciarra—Interesting player. A college quarterback converted to safety but would sometimes play quarterback in goalline situations for the Eagles.
20. Johnny Hekker—Anyone who can hold and point out to the referee that there are 12 men on the defensive side of the ball at the same time deserves a spot here. He also can throw on fake kicks like he does on punts.
21. Jeff Rutledge
22. Jason Baker
23. Charlie Waters
24. Brian Moorman—Did it playing in cold, windy Buffalo.
25t. Pete Holohan—Terrific hands. One of the few tight ends to hold.
25t. Elroy Hirsch—A HOF receiver with excellent hands.
25t. Joe Scarpati—Longtime holder for Eagles, held for Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal in 1970 for the Saints.
Sure, we could list many more names, but we just can only assume guys like Sonny Jurgensen, John Brodie, or Len Dawson or all the punters now did a good job our someone else would do it. George Allen, in his 1985 book on special teams mentioned Richie Petitbon and Bobby Boyd of the Colts as well.
As we've mentioned would love some anecdotal evidence from kickers, snappers in the NFL and the retired guys to hear some stories as to why their guy, their holder was the best.
We've sorted them by games played but that is not how we rank them. We really cannot rank them because there is not a way we know of to do that, short of tracking each snap's accuracy and velocity.
We do, however, talk to people we trust and get input about that. One person said the most important things are #1 Accuracy #2 Not having a "hitch" prior to the snap #3 Velocity.
The names on the list that played 105 games or less (aside from Anno) are recommendations from George Allen in his book on special teams.
Recently, Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin ranked the long snappers with Steve DeOssie first, Patrick Mannelly second, and Don Muhlbach, third.
That order sounds fine to us.
After that, we'd go with Junkin, Hellastrae, Dorenbos, Mike Morris, Zak DeOssie (probably the best at getting downfield and making tackles since Rich Saul), Mike McDonald (maybe had the best accuracy and velocity and no "hitch"), Dan Turk.
Bush and Maples were starting centers a good portion of his career, Tingelhoff was a starter his whole career and handled all snaps. Bobby Bell and D.D. Lewis were starting linebackers
So, if we've omitted anyone, please let us know. We are sure that guys like Jim Otto did a credible job but we'd love to hear the stories. With some of the field and game conditions back in the day sometimes just getting a kick or punt off was likely a feat. So if there is more to this we are all ears, we would love to learn more about the esoteric aspects of special teams play.
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